Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cobras in Kangaloon? And Silhouettes in the bush.

Immature Greenhood
Not Cobra snakes, but Cobra Greenhood Orchids (Diplodium grandiflorum*).

A few weeks ago, while wandering around in one of my summer haunts for Ground Orchids, in Kangaloon, I saw an immature flower. I assumed it was the same as another species which I had found (open) that same day, a few Kms away. Silly me! I missed out on recognising this plant!
Today I saw this immature flower, but it was with these other developed plants, which makes identification easier. One can see the brown edges of the petals just starting to protrude along the side of the "beak-like" hood.

A pair of Greenhoods
Today, I was back in an area close by. I was looking for more specimens of the Turtle Orchid, but alas, they appear to have finished, or at least I could not find any open ones, today.
But, as sometimes happens, I found something I was not expecting to find - the Superb Greenhoood. These plants are relatively tall (some were more than 30 cms tall), with "cauline" leaves (leaves growing along the stem).
How different these plants are from the related "Tiny Greenhoods" I found a few weeks back, (published 1 April) which were short, brown coloured, with no protruding "ears" (points), and no leaves on the stem, nor any leaf rosettes on the ground. The flowers were on tiny naked stems.
The labellum
highlighted in
bright sunlight.
When looking at Greenhoods, one of the identifying things to look for is the shape, thickness of the "tongue" (Labellum).
This is inside the centre of the flower, and it is a motile structure, which is sensitive to movement (it acts like a trigger, to trap tiny insects).
If you cannot see the labellum, it is possible it has been "triggered", and is drawn back and into the flower, holding an insect inside a kind of trap, to ensure the insect pollinates the flower.
Look for another flower, maybe the tongue will be visible in that plant.
In this particular case, the labellum is highly visible, floodlit in the late afternoon light. It is thin, and held erect and protruding.

Cobra Greenhood,
deformed "points"

In this species, the sides of the hood, are brown, and flared, a feature which earns it the "Cobra" name. These brown petals are actually separate from the central section of the hood (the green part) which is the dorsal sepal, but, functionally , they are fused with the narrow green dorsal sepal, to form the outer edges of the "hood".
As usual, click on the photo to see a larger version of the image.
Contrast this flower with the closely related "Escarpment Greenhood" (Diplodium pulchellum) about which I posted on 31 March. That is a much more brightly coloured flower, and is much more prominently pointed in the hood.

A tall Greenhood
against a bank of soil.
Look closely at this spectacular, tall Greenhood Orchid (CLICK ON THE IMAGE). I had seen this plant (species) a few years ago, when I first moved to Robertson, but I cannot recall exactly where I saw it then, Certainly not this spot, as I had not discovered it then.

This plant was growing by itself, but I soon bumped into a bunch of these wonderful flowers, some were growing together, in small groups.

A pair of Greenhoods.
These are not "duplicated images" but perfectly similar flowers, each with the "labelum" prominently visible.
This photo shows another distinguishing feature, the broad "sinus" (the front edge of the lower part of the flower) which is made up of two fused "sepals" which provide a sealed section at the front of the flower. These sepals also carry the "points" or "ears" which are a distinctive feature of some Greenhoods (including these ones). Contrast these spectacular "points" with the "Tiny Greenhoods" mentioned before, on which the points do not protrude above the side of the flower.
(Click for a better look).

An accidental silhouette,
not trick photography.
Because these plants are hard to locate (or should I say, easy to lose, once you have located them) I was playing a kind of "Strip Jack Naked" game, in the bush today (by myself, I will have you know!).
I had got out of the car, leaving the Camera behind. Why, you ask? I was not expecting to find anything much, that's why.
So, having found a few plants which warranted photographing, I left a series of markers beside them. Firstly the blue terry-towelling hat (my trademark hat!) came off, then a jumper, then a shirt, then a bunch of tissues, and then another bunch. I knew that if I did not do this, I would not find the plants I wished to photograph, again, after going back to the car to get the camera.

In the above photo, I lined the image up, the way I wished to photograph the flower, and then realised I had accidentally silhouetted** the flower. It ruins the light balance, but it shows the form of the flower's outline perfectly. Note the angle and shape of the"labellum".
With links in this post to three other species of local Greenhoods, plus this one, I hope you realise that not all Greenhoods are the same. In fact there are many more different ones yet to come, hopefully this season, some of which will be tiny "rosette" types, which are often very short in their stem, some almost ground-hugging.

* This plant was previously known as Pterostylis grandiflora. It is called Cobra Greenhood, or Superb Greenhood.

** Did you know that the word "Silhouette" was named after Etienne de Silhouette, (1709 -67) a French author and politician. (Thanks to the Macquarie Dictionary for that gem).

I wonder if M. Silhouette was a "cut out cartoon" of a politician, like some we have today?
((Miss Eagle, and other readers - Suggested names may be sent - as comments))

Perhaps M. Silhouette perfected the art of doing those tricky little outlines much beloved of side-show hucksters and Chinese street artists?
Wikipedia (God bless it) tells me that: "The word is an eponym named after Etienne de Silhouette, a finance minister of Louis XV who in 1759 imposed such harsh economic demands upon the French people that his name became synonymous with anything done or made cheaply."
There is an alternative explanation too: "A silhouette is a profile traced onto and then cut from black paper and was a simple alternative for people who could not afford other forms of portraiture, which, in the eighteenth century, was still an expensive proposition. The word took its name from Étienne de Silhouette, either because the victims of his taxes complained that they were reduced to mere shadows or because he enjoyed this fad art in his retirement."

In other words, either different people compiled these separate entries, or the author really does not know.

I prefer the first explanation, simply because I recognise those characteristics in modern politicians.

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